Ongoing Investigations: Case #182

The newest series running in Shonen Jump Alpha, and brand new in Japan as well, is Takama-ga-hara. The series poses the idea “If mythology was actually history, then modern man is descended from the Gods.” And since it is a Shonen Jump manga you can expect they use their God-like powers for fighting. People don’t seem to be aware of this fact about being descended from Gods yet, but nevertheless there are the infamous Yamada brothers known for their pursuit of strength!

Except Yamato. He doesn’t want to train and be strong like the other four Yamada brothers, he wants to be a manga artist instead. Too bad the rest of the world wants to challenge him to fights since he is a Yamada.

Takama-ga-hara had me cracking up within the first few pages! The brothers have great interactions and their brawn VS. brain rivalry created hilarious moments. Also characters’ reactions to Yamato’s presumably terrible manga are priceless.

We haven’t really jumped into the God part of the story within the first chapter. The opponent is just a really big, strong delinquent guy who wants to make a name for himself. Although, we do see that Yamato’s right arm holds incredible strength that is dying to be unleashed.

The art isn’t very polished or detailed (minus speed lines), but it has solid layout and great comedic delivery. And as long as it keeps me laughing like this first chapter, I’m on board for more.

I would like to update by recommendation for Yamada and the Seven Witches as Manga of the Month with this Ongoing Investigation. I originally said the series was a body swap comedy but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop when the full meaning of the title was revealed. Now that Miki Yoshikawa has revealed more of what is going on I must reassess my statement about the series. It is actually a magical kiss power series where one of the powers is body swapping.

I have to say I am always impressed by the way that Miki Yoshikawa creates series that have an always evolving plot especially in chapters 16 to 26. So much comedy tends to move in the same circles for a majority of the story. I don’t mind that formula too much. As long as the comedy makes me laugh I am content. But with a series like this I have to admire the ability to keep the themes and tone consistent but have a feeling of progression and accomplishment when so much comedy manga is about preventing that. Bravo.

Now that we know that the seven witches are seven different people at school how have kiss powers the plot is beginning to true take form. The series is more about finding the remaining witches and learning how his phenomenon came to be in the first place. Since Ryu is like a Final Fantasy Tactics mime I am curious to see how he will use his new-found powers as much as what the other witch’s powers are in the first place. Fun.

I will also note that as Narutaki mentioned to me it is so unusual for a shonen series to have so much kissing. Any and all kisses are usually huge deals in the genre. But here any and all genders of characters are kissing like most people just say hello. It is just a bit remarkable in that sense.

Urara Shiraishi impresses me as being sufficiently different from Hana Adachi but also a great character in her own way. You can easily accuse Ryu Yamada of just being the Daichi Shinagawa clone of the series but Urara really comes of as unique. She is clearly book smart but also the clearest thinker in the series. Her main problems are big physically weak and very poor at grasping social cues. But she has a social awkwardness very different from Hana. My only regret is that she is a very closed off character so at times Miki Yoshikawa keeps her in the background least the overexpose her feelings and thoughts.

Once again if you don’t mind scans or can read Japanese you should be at least trying out Miki Yoshikawa. She is just that good.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

I’ve finally returned to 20th Century Boys but started over from the beginning since I wanted to be fresh on everything that has happened since this is more manga you want to pay attention to the details in. I’ve read through 14 volumes now and what a ride it has been.

The timeline jumps around but it is the story of Kenji, his group of friends from his childhood, and the mysterious cult leader known only as Friend. A virus is spreading around the globe and things only get worse as time goes on and it closes in on Japan. Murder, terrorism, corruption, politics, destruction, and so much more swirl around the figure of Friend. It comes to light that all of these events were first written down as a story by Kenji and his friends when they were young.

This is a slowly unraveling mystery and as such it is a little hard to talk about without giving things away. Sometimes the answers are right there in front of you but Urasawa and Nagasaki are great at manipulating your view of events (much like Friend himself) which always keeps you reluctant to trust what you’re seeing.

I really love that in the beginning this is a story about the power of friendship, but taken many steps further than when you think about the friendship aspect of shonen manga. And it is always a story of unlikely heroes.

It is so suspenseful that I can’t read it before going to bed! Either it’ll keep me up because it was creepy or it’ll keep me up trying to figure out the mysteries!

I was recently in Manhattan with Greg from the Eroge Bus podcast for his birthday. While there we went to Book-Off and I stumbled upon a rather interesting find. For a mere three dollars there was a Legend of the Galactic Heroes Poster Book with art by Katsumi Michihara. It was a remarkably rare find and inexplicably cheap on top of that.  It truly proves that the occasional trip down to will never steer you wrong. While you never know what you will find that is precisely the reason you go.

The picture collection is fairly diverse but it only sticks to the main cast and not even all of them. I am amused that Reinhard gets 2 solo posters that are just him in slightly different poses while in full Imperial dress. But I guess that is what happens when you are the ridiculously handsome, charismatic, and slightly devious blond guy in the cast. He also gets two pictures with Kircheis mostly because the creators of this book know what is good for them and don’t want fan girls hunting them down. On is them as young men looking like they are ready to take on the Empire together. The other one will set many a fujuoshi’s heart a flutter with Reinhard resting on Kircheis’ shoulder. Kircheis also gets his own dashing portrait as well for everyone who just wants the tragic red-head. Narutaki’s favorite picture is the only Reuenthal and Mittermeyer picture in the batch. It has a smokey quality to it. It reinforces not only their bad boy status but their epic bromance.

One the Alliance side Yang looks a bit more on the ball in his poster than I ever remember him in the anime. Maybe it is one of his rare sober days (if such things exist). Yang, Dusty, and Schönkopf get a poster together. I have to imagine there are all gathered together to get a drink after a victory. Schönkopf gets his own picture in full space marine armor. He has a particularly demonic look on his face and his axe is in mid swing. That pretty much is his ideal setting for a portrait. Rounding it out is a dashing if somewhat boyish picture of Julian clearly looking as if he is rushing off somewhere as he throws on his jacket.

And to prove that there are women in the show you get two posters with female characters. There is an amazingly cheesy picture of Hildegard in full 80 aerobic gear with her uniform in the background. She is quite the comely woman but the scene itself is just so comical. There is a particularly angelic piece with Annerose in a revealing but still classy outfit. Being in a field on lilies suits her character quite well and add to the ambiance of the scene.

Narutaki and I are huge Legend of the Galactic Heroes fans but there is never that much merchandise to find. That makes little find like this even all the more valuable.

I read the Burn Notice webcomic part 2 since the new season has gotten me in the mood for moremoremore! Part 2 takes place before season 5 as with Part 1.

A good portion takes place in Prague as Michael hunts down leads about who burned him while working with Max from the CIA. Sam and Fi get involved after the CIA inevitably screws over Micheal’s pursuit of one of the men he’s after.

It is not really all that memorable, but there are some lively moments. Sam busting out SEAL tactics in Canada was enjoyable. And Micheal’s signature spy tips are in tactic at the very least.

Side note, the coloring style changes in Ch. 11 to a more painterly form, but then reverts back in Ch. 12. Shame really because I really liked the painterly style better.

As a nice bit of appetizer before the main meal of the second season of the Legend of Korra I decided to read Avatar the Promise Part 2 to tide me over. It is interesting that when I started the series much of what was going to happen was a mystery. But now that I watched the Legend of Korra I know almost all the end game results of the major conflicts in this miniseries. Now the question is how do they get from what happens in the first book to the world we see in Korra.

The plot really divides itself into three stories. There is the bulk of this book which is Toph and Sokka trying to teach her students how to metalbend. It is mostly their silly littler antics and a “we have to beat those mean jocks” style adventure. They always play off each other well so it is a fun adventure.

While ostensibly Aang and Katara’s story is about them seeing what they can do to ease the conflict in the contested area between the Earth and Fire Kingdoms it is mostly about Aang’s fan club. Knowing what I know about the Avatar staff it seems to be as much a meta commentary on the fandom as it is a bit of character development for Aang and Katara. The fan girls are appropriate fan girly which can be very amusing at times.

Zuko gets the least amount of face time in the book but they do make what time he gets all the more efficient in return. If anything he has the most important scenes in the book. His dealing with his father and Mai are equally important. I am sure that Narutaki was a little upset they did not focus on him a bit more considering how many important decisions he is making.

By the way Toph has still not gone on a life-changing field trip with Zuko.

As the third book is out I am very curious to see the conclusion. I want to see how much they tie off and how much they are going to leave to inference and possibly other books.

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